By James Coggin and Bernard Spooner
Why have a bus ministry? Perhaps the greatest single reason for having a bus ministry lies in its potential for evangelistic outreach – witnessing to the saving power of Jesus Christ to those around us. On the first Sunday our very first bus ran, a thirteen-year-old girl made her profession of faith in Christ. By the end of the first year of a bus ministry at Travis Avenue Baptist Church more than 250 boys, girls, and adult riders had presented themselves on profession of faith in Christ and united with our church.
As the young people and adults ride the buses, they are oriented into spiritual matters. They become acquainted with the Bible which they many have seen for the very first time. Soon they are presented with their own copy of a New Testament – such as Good News for Modern Man.
One child excitedly took her copy home and showed it to her mother. Over a period of time the mother, reading the book of John, accepted Jesus as her Savior. Then she shared this experience with her husband. Soon an entire family of nine trusted the Lord and later made public these decisions. This happens often with the people who ride our buses.
This ministry is a concrete means of demonstrating our spiritual concern. It is definitely another evangelistic arm reaching out in service to those around us. It is not at all uncommon to have entire families professing our Lord publicly after interested workers have won them to faith in Christ.
Out of this spiritual ministry comes another reason for a bus ministry – an opportunity to show social concern. At first we observed that some people do not feel free to come to church because of improper clothing, lack of Bible knowledge, or other such reason. However, after continued interest and visits on the part of the bus workers, this economic and educational barrier is broken down. As the ministry is continued and as the children get into a regular routine of Sunday school attendance, parents begin to realize that our church is truly interested in their family.
Often there is a real evident need for tangible expressions of concern. These needs have been met, also. Clothing, food, and other items have been provided over and over again. (This will be discussed further later on in the chapter.)
Perhaps one of the most rewarding reasons for a bus ministry is to reach children of unconcerned parents. Oh, how very many adults are indifferent to their own spiritual needs and likewise to the spiritual needs of their children. Formerly we visited these people, the children showed an interest, but could or did not attend because their parents would not bring them. With a bus going by their home for them, they can attend without parents – but in most cases, with the approval of the parents. Children respond to the love and interest of concerned workers. Hundreds who never had been inside a church now call Travis “my church.”
Also, a bus ministry reaches senior adults and others who desire to come but have no transportation. Many are dependent upon others but prefer to be independent. Having a bus come to their door solves this problem for them. Senior adults who live in downtown hotels and apartment complexes are so gratified to have transportation to church.
The last reason we will mention for having a bus ministry is the opportunity it gives to church members to render service. Never have we had so many people working, so many people developing as soul winners, so many people rendering service as we have had since our bus ministry began. One worker said, “All my life as a Christian I had prayed that I could be a soul winner. Now I am really winning people.” More people are rending personal service in tangible ways – providing clothing, food, even refrigerators and other home needs. More people are teaching children, more people are learning to love, to care, to be more interested in others than they are in themselves. On and on we could go, listing reasons for a bus ministry.
How to Begin a Bus Ministry
Study Your Community
In some areas churches can begin a bus ministry right in their very own neighborhood. In other areas it might be necessary to spread on out. Look for sections cut off from the main residential districts by railroad tracks or small industries. Look for apartment complexes or trailer courts. Look for areas where large numbers of people live; children’s homes, geriatric homes, military bases.
Our church has used two methods successfully to enlist boys, girls, and adults for the buses. The Sunday school workers have done the canvassing; also, bus captains and crew members have done the canvassing.
Sunday School Canvass
Of course, this is done very much as any other door-to-door canvassing. We determine how many blocks will be surveyed; then divide the blocks among the Sunday school departments. Usually it takes each canvasser about one hour to complete a block.
It is the responsibility of the departments and class leaders to get their assigned blocks canvassed. Brief training sessions are held during Sunday morning assemblies, as a Sunday noon luncheon, or at regular visitation suppers. Canvassers get a full explanation of the purpose of the canvassing, the area assigned, and a suggested approach to the occupants – perhaps in a “how to” and “how not to” demonstration. Materials used for the canvass will be discussed later.
The suggested conversation we have used is as follows:
“I am from Travis Avenue Baptist Church. We are locating families in this area who are interested in riding a bus to Sunday school and worship services. We are chartering a city bus which will come to your front door every Sunday morning around 9:00 o’clock and will take you to Sunday school and worship and will return you to your home around noon. Are there members of your family who would like for the bus to stop for them?”
Experience has shown that when approximately one hundred average size blocks are canvassed we can expect to locate about thirty families with some interest in riding a bus. Many canvasses will pre-enroll no one. It is, therefore, important that workers know this before they go so they will not be disappointed. Each is to do his best as he surveys his block, knowing he will share in the success of the overall effort.
When the canvassing is completed, compiled, and processed, each home is plotted on a map and the route is organized. The bus crew then returns to each home on the Saturday before the bus is to run the first day. They visit with parents and children to further discuss the schedule. All members of the family are encouraged to ride.
If the canvassers and bus crew do their jobs well, it is likely that there will be from ten to twenty-five people riding on the first Sunday. The second Sunday may drop off in attendance, but in the next two or three months the bus is likely to be reaching from thirty-five to forty-five persons each week.
Bus Crew Canvass
This canvassing is done in the same way as the Sunday school canvass discussed above. The difference is that the bus crew does all of the work, requiring a great deal more effort on the part of a few workers.
The Sunday school canvassing has the advantage of covering more territory more quickly and thus getting the bus off to a better start. It also helps a larger cross section of the membership feel that they have a part in this ministry. These Sunday school members find the prospects and then the bus crew cultivates and reaches them. Furthermore, the bus workers will locate new riders almost every week. There is a constant relocation of riders; some moving out, others in.
How to Secure the Buses
There are a number of ways to secure buses. Perhaps the simplest way to get started is to rent them. Many cities have their own transit systems and rent their buses on an hourly basis. Using city buses has many advantages. In most instances they can be chartered or cancelled on short notice. Parents have more confidence in the safety of their children when they see a uniformed driver in the city transit bus. The rental price includes insurance and driver as well as use of the bus.
It is possible to rent buses from other sources. Some Catholic school parent organizations purchase buses to transport their children to their own schools. They will sometimes rent them on Sundays for a minimal amount. It will probably be necessary to furnish drivers and to provide insurance. They would of course maintain the buses. Still others may be rented from individuals who have contracts with public school districts. Many own and operate their own buses.
The outstanding advantage of renting buses is that the church can major on outreach and can secure the energies of others to provide the transportation for the ministry. The problems of driver training, maintenance, insurance, security against vandalism, and the initial outlay of funds to purchase equipment must be considered. These responsibilities alone will take much time and forethought and may call for an additional church staff member very early in the ministry.
Many churches, however, choose to own their bus. Certainly, this approach should be thoroughly considered by all. Perhaps it would be wise to rent buses until the ministry is established. This would give leaders a chance to discover the potential and limitations of the ministry without fully committing themselves to the full responsibilities of bus ownership.
Buses being used by churches throughout the nation range from old school buses purchased for $300 to $400 each to some of the most modern equipment available which costs as much as $40,000 to $50,000 each. Many churches buy school buses which are six to ten years old. In recent months the price for such buses has increased significantly. Some have full time bus ministers and employ one or more mechanics. Most take their equipment to a repair shop or get members to volunteer their services to maintain it. Some maintain a spare bus in case of a break down.
A key advantage of owning buses is to have them for many uses in the life of the church. Churches intending to provide transportation for all services would certainly need to consider the purchase of buses.
How to Secure Workers
Workers, of course, must be sought to build this work. Some members of the congregation will emerge to serve in the bus ministry who has never served in any other way. The following suggestions are offered:
1. Take a survey through the Sunday school or in a worship service and ask people to indicate their possible interest in working with the bus ministry.
2. Look for men who visit regularly or who bring persons to church in their own cars.
3. Keep the bus ministry constantly before the congregation. Recognize the bus captains and workers for outstanding accomplishments.
4. Choose captains for new routes from the outreach visitors on routes already established.
5. Study the Sunday school rolls for names of men who are faithful in attendance and visitation. Visit in their homes to lay the challenge before them.
6. Have workers and riders give testimonies about the work.
How to Organize the Workers
The bus ministry requires a dedicated group of effective workers. They must be willing to visit their riders and to seek new ones each week. They need to be compassionate in order to minister to indifferent parents, undisciplined children, and human tragedy. Only those who have a commitment to this work will be effective.
What workers are needed? Different approaches may be taken. Some churches select a director to be in charge of the entire ministry, a bus pastor or captain to be in charge of each bus, and a driver for each bus. Others have a director, captain or pastor, group leaders, game and song leaders, drivers, and a general secretary.
Let’s discuss briefly the work of each of these persons.
1) The bus director. This person may be responsible to the pastor, the minister of education, or to a bus ministry committee.
His ministry would primarily include:
(1) Determine the need for new routes and determine the boundaries of all routes.
(2) Lead out in the establishing of new routes.
(3) Help develop procedures for handling the riders on the bus, at church, and at other times.
(4) Enlist and train workers.
(5) Develop and improve a bus record system.
(6) Deal with any problems related to the ministry.
(7) Work to relate the bus ministry to the Sunday school and the rest of the church program.
(8) Secure and maintain the buses.
(9) Make recommendations for the bus budget.
(10) Lead in promoting attendance on each bus.
2. The bus captain. Duties of each bus captain would include the following:
(1) Plan, conduct, and evaluate the outreach and transportation ministry of his assigned route.
(2) Enlist outreach visitors to visit riders and prospective riders.
(3) Adjust route and schedule to meet the needs of his riders.
(4) Direct the driver over the route.
(5) See that his bus record book is checked and report the results of work each Sunday.
(6) See that the church name or sign is properly displayed on the bus.
(7) See that all passengers are returned home and that children are returned to the custody of their parents or guardian.
(8) Develop good public relations for the church.
(9) See that each rider and prospect is assigned to an outreach visitor for visitation, cultivation, and watch care.
(10) See that appropriate discipline is maintained on the bus at all times.
(11) Attend the bus workers planning meeting every Saturday morning at 9:00 A.M.
(12) Hold planning meeting with outreach visitors as necessary.
(13) See that each child is identified when he gets on the bus. (The method we use is placing a name tag on each rider; stamping his hand with identification of assigned department.)
14) Plan special activities for riders throughout the year.
3. Bus outreach visitor. Duties of this person would include the following:
(1) Visit an assigned group of riders each Saturday.
(2) Always “look out” for new riders to enlist.
(3) Assist with records, discipline, refreshments, signs, loading and unloading of passengers each Sunday.
(4) Develop good public relations for the church.
(5) Attend the bus workers planning meeting every Saturday morning at 9:00 o’clock.
(6) Check to be sure that each rider in the group is accounted for each Sunday.
(7) Minister to the entire family of each rider on the assigned group.
4. The bus driver. The driver is responsible to drive the bus as directed by the bus captain. He will look out for the safety of the group by driving carefully and by seeing that his bus is road safe. He should be properly licensed and should assist the captain as needed.
5. The bus secretary. The secretary prepares a general report of all buses each Sunday morning. This person assists the bus captains with their records and maintains an office record book for each bus route. He works with each bus captain to maintain a record card on each rider and checks his attendance each week.
6. The game and song leader. This individual helps make the best use of the time riders spend on the bus by doing the following:
(1) Lead in singing songs which will prepare riders for Sunday school and will help them enjoy the time they are on the bus.
(2) Lead riders to play games which teach them something about the Christian faith.
Time for Visitation
We have found that Saturday is the best time to get our work done. At 9:00 A.M. each Saturday we meet for planning, training, promotion, and visitation. It has been evident that this meeting is an important factor in stabilizing and in building the quality of the work. Thirty to forty minutes is spent in a general period followed by brief meetings of bus captains with their workers.
During the general period the report of last Sunday is discussed. Attention is focused on attendance, new riders, the arrival time at Sunday school, the number of hours spent in visitation, the number of persons personally contacted, and the number making professions of faith. Crews with outstanding reports are asked to share what methods were used.
After the report has been discussed time is then spent in planning and coordinating the work. Goals are set for growth and for high attendance days. Parents’ days are planned from time to time. Plans for special seasons such as Christmas are considered. Plans for new routes or adjustments in routes are worked out. Matters needing coordination between the Sunday school or the worship services are discussed.
Some time is also spent each week in training to improve the quality of our work. Subjects discussed include: dealing with indifferent parents, how to make the Saturday morning visits, how to witness to the lost, how to locate and enlist new riders, how to handle discipline problems, values of the bus ministry, how to deal with problem children, how to deal with poverty needs, how to make the best use of riding time on the buses, how to organize the bus route. We also have tape-recorded training sessions and make them available for new workers to use at home.
Record books are updated and new riders are plotted on a bus map which is maintained.
In addition to all of the above the Saturday meeting is planned to give inspiration. This may be done in a closing prayer or by sharing testimonies, or by a brief devotional thought.
The second part of the Saturday morning meeting is used by bus captains to plan with their outreach visitors. During the last fifteen minutes the bus crews quickly make plans for visitation for the day. New families who may have been turned in by Sunday school workers or have been found on the newcomer list are assigned. Some discussion is given to canvassing new blocks in order to expand the route. Primarily, however, plans are made to see that every family on the route is visited. Some time is also spent updating the church bus records. New families are also plotted on a large map which shows the location of every home being reached. Special activities, such as picnics, trips to the zoo, or parents’ days, are planned. In summary, this time is used by captains and crews to work out the detailed plans of their routes. Most activities are planned and carried out separately by individual routes. Occasionally, however, all buses enter into promotional emphases together.
Great effort is taken to see that this meeting concludes by 10:00 A.M., so that no time is lost from visitation. Visitation is normally completed by 1:00 P.M. However, on days when a special emphasis is planned some workers spend the entire day in visitation. Most routes can be built and maintained with a captain and a crew of two or three workers visiting two or three hours each Saturday.
It is important that personal contacts be made each week. Even during Christmas holidays our workers continued to visit. When asked for suggestions as to what should be done on special holidays, it was overwhelmingly agreed that the Saturday meeting should be continued. The group meets at 10:00 A.M. for prayer and a brief meeting. Every bus has been represented and most riders were visited on Christmas and New Years weekends. Bus attendance actually increased during this season while the Sunday school experienced a general drop in attendance. If all of the Sunday school could be mobilized to continue to visit during the holidays, the attendance drop could possibly be avoided.
The Sunday Morning Schedule
On Sunday morning all workers and the buses arrive at the church at 8:30. The schedule for the morning is as follows:
8:30 A.M.-Buses and workers arrive at church
8:50-9:00 A.M.-Pick up first rider
9:25 A.M.-Buses return to church for Sunday school
10:50 A.M.-Children’s worship and preschool extended service begin
11:30 A.M.-Load riders and return home
12:10 P.M.-Buses return to the church for adults and youth who attend the main worship service.
12:45 P.M.-Workers return to the church and depart for home
The schedule listed above is generally followed. Our plan is to get to the first home around 9:00 A.M. or slightly earlier in order to return to the church by 9:25 or 9:30 A.M. The time a bus begins to pick up passengers varies slightly from bus to bus depending upon the length of the route and the number of riders who are to be picked up. It takes more time, of course, if there are more homes on a route. Buses are often late, but this varies according to the number of passengers who ride on a given Sunday or if problems arise, such as waiting on a train or for other traffic.
Children’s Worship Services
Following the Sunday school hour special worship services are provided for boys and girls, sixth grade and younger. These services became necessary when our buses began to reach eighty to ninety in attendance. Prior to this time Sunday school workers were asked to sit with children during the morning worship service if they were not accompanied by their parents. Many children who ride the buses have little or no background in religious education or Christian worship. The services are suited to the needs of the different age groups.
At first one service was provided for all age groups first through sixth grades. The attendance increased, however, so quickly that this service had to be divided into two services, one for first, second, and third grade children and another for fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. These services have proven to be meaningful experiences for these ages and have eliminated some distractions in the main worship services.
When we first began the children’s worship service, it began around 10:50 A.M. and concluded at 12:00 noon to coincide with the main worship service. This proved to present a problem since the buses were unable to depart until all riders were dismissed from the main worship service. Discipline problems would sometime arise while the younger riders waited. It was later decided that the younger services would be dismissed at 11:30 A.M. and the children would be taken home. The bus returns to the church shortly after 12:00 noon for youth and adults. Younger children whose parents attend the main worship service get on their bus at 11:30 A.M. and stay with the bus crew until parents are out of the main service around noon. The family then rides home together.
Extended service for preschoolers also had to be enlarged. Our church for a number of years has provided an extended service for four- and five-year-olds. With the coming of the buses new approaches had to be considered. The number of workers needed has more than doubled. Now following the Sunday school hour, the following routine has been established: the boys and girls are taken to the rest room, have a rest period, then go to “Little Big Church” for a brief worship experience.
This worship period might be described as a glorified group time. The boys and girls sing songs, take the offering, have prayer, and then hear a Bible story. The stories used come from group time materials found in Sunday school, church training, and World Friends publications. Songs are chosen to go along with the story. At the present time we have three such services which average about thirty-five children each in attendance.
This type of service grew out of the experience of our workers. The volunteers who previously served in extended services worked under the guidance of one of our Sunday school teachers who did most of the planning. Efforts to involve volunteers in training experiences and in planning for these important minutes with our boys and girls normally had produced little results. Volunteers often expressed the conviction that they didn’t feel they did anything beyond “keeping the boys and girls.” However, with the use of the routine discussed above, this attitude has changed. These inexperienced workers worship along with the children and feel that they are helping accomplish meaningful worship and learning experiences. We feel that this is important, and experience is proving that workers are much more willing to volunteer their help.
In addition to the feelings of the workers it is our opinion that these experiences are, of course, valuable to the children in preparing them for attending the main worship service later on. As has been mentioned, songs and stories are chosen suited to the age group. The main difference in these services and group time is the size of the group and the arrangement of chairs into rows. Small benches are used in one service.
A few three-year-old preschoolers who ride on the buses are provided for in the extended service. They remain with the rest of their age group until time for the buses to leave. Later we hope to separate these so that any disruption caused by the bus children leaving early can be avoided.
New Member Orientation
From the beginning a good number of the riders have continued to make their professions of faith. Some make decisions on Sunday night while others come during the service for fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. (All persons must present themselves in one of the main worship services). Since transportation is not provided on Sunday night, new member orientation is conducted following Sunday school. Riders who attend this training program, however, do not get to attend the worship service. Some consideration has been given to having this study after the children’s worship service at 11:30 A.M. No doubt, adjustments will be made in the days ahead to make the best use of the available time.
Sunday Morning Procedure on the Buses
As has been mentioned, bus workers and the city transit buses arrive at approximately 8:30 A.M. Drivers and bus captains sign in on a roster.
The bus captain and crew pick up their bus signs, materials, and records (usually maintained by the captain) and board their bus. One sign is placed in the front window of the bus, another is placed near the front door, and a sign indicating the number of the bus is attached to a side window, all clearly visible. A small plastic bag with stick-on name tags, a hand stamp which corresponds to the bus number, and a stamp pad is provided for each bus.
With these things in hand the bus makes its way to the first home. Each child is picked up at his front door. The bus pulls up, the driver blows his horn, if necessary, waits for children to board, and drives immediately to the next home. As the men visit on Saturday they try to determine who will be riding the next morning. The bus goes only to the homes of those who indicate they will be riding. Of course the captain will go to any home where there is the possibility of picking up passengers. They simply do not go to a home if riders expect to be out of the city or indicate that they definitely will not be riding for other reasons.
As boys and girls get on the bus, the captain checks them present, and another worker stamps the bus number on one of their hands. This helps to insure that the rider will get back to the correct bus following worship. Stick-on name tags are placed on all new riders and all preschool passengers. These name tags include the name, the address of new riders, and the Sunday school department room number. It is designed to help get each person to his correct department.
When six or eight boys and girls are on the bus, someone begins to lead the group in the singing of songs or in playing games. Songs and games are designed to contribute to the enjoyment of those who ride and at the same time are chosen for inspirational and educational value. Song sheets have been prepared.
Usually teenagers are used to lead in singing and in games and this is considered to be a very important part of the bus ministry.
As the bus gets near the church, the captain often calls the group to attention and leads in a prayer. This is done to call for God’s blessings for the boys and girls as they attend Bible study and worship. It also serves to set the tone for the experience which will be shared.
When the bus pulls up to the church, Sunday school workers meet them at the door. Each department is responsible for having someone meet the bus each Sunday. Older riders depart from their bus and go directly to their department unless they are new riders. New passengers are classified and escorted to their rooms. Preschoolers are then escorted to their rooms by department representatives. Bus captains and crew members remain on their buses to see that every rider is identified and to insure that good discipline is maintained.
It is the Sunday school workers’ responsibility to meet the buses when they arrive at church, get riders to their departments, to the worship services, and back to the buses. Bus crews are responsible for picking the riders up at their homes, getting them to the church and returning them to their homes. This seems to be the most clear-cut division of responsibilities, especially as the number of riders increase.
The captain and his crew return to the bus a few minutes before 11:30 A.M. in order to be present when the first rider loads for the trip back home. This helps insure that good discipline is maintained and that all riders are accounted for. Each rider is then returned to his front door with a friendly good-by from the captain and crew members. Every effort is made to call the riders by name and to express joy that they have been in Bible study worship. We consider this to be of great value. Every effort is made to help each rider feel his importance as an individual and understand that we care for him and love him.
Food and Clothing
Not long after the bus ministry got underway it became quickly evident that many riders needed food and clothing. One Sunday last November a family of six came making their professions of faith. One of our adult directors walked through the receiving line and noted that one of the eleven-year-old girls did not have on shoes. He told his department about the experience on the following Sunday. They responded with more than $175.00 on that day and have since that time continued to buy shoes for all who need them. One family of nine was outfitted with shoes at Christmas time, thanks to this department. One of the department members, a shoe store operator, supplied the shoes at a price below his cost. Only God knows the great joy that has come to our church as members have responded to these human needs.
The ladies of Woman’s Missionary Society, along with our church benevolence committee, have set up a clothing closet and a pantry. It has been amazing to see the response of the people as they have brought literally hundreds of items, such as dresses, shirts, trousers, underclothing, shoes, and coats.
When the pantry was set up, the Sunday school challenged its members to bring food. People responded with great sacks of canned goods and staple items with a seeming determination that every need in the entire city would be met. Church members have provided for other needs as well. Several families were found without electrical refrigeration in their homes. These were given or provided in other ways. Beds, chairs, and curtains have been donated.
At Christmas time a list of needy families was compiled and made available for Sunday school departments, classes, and individuals. They responded in various ways to provide gifts, food, clothing, and toys. Their efforts were coordinated by the church receptionist who kept records of who was helping whom. Many families would have nothing at Christmas if our members had not responded. God has shown us once again that opportunities for evangelistic outreach and opportunities for expressing social concern go hand in hand. We at Travis do not see a distinction between the two. We believe that the Christian faith in its normal expression will not only care for the spiritual needs of people but will minister to the total person.
Building the Route with Goals and Special Days
Bus captains and workers respond readily to the use of goals and special days. On each Saturday morning some time is spent reviewing progress toward these goals. Goals are set for an average attendance which the crew wishes to be maintaining by a given day. This gives each crew a sense of direction in their work and a gauge by which to measure their efforts. From time to time goals are set for a high attendance. These special days are usually built around the seasons of the year or in cooperation with Sunday school high attendance days.
Goals are especially useful in the bus ministry. Since the bus workers are primarily dealing with outreach they apparently have a greater recognized need to measure their work than do Sunday school workers. Teachers often measure their accomplishments by the “way the lesson went” or by the way the pupils responded to their teaching. Bus workers and perhaps class outreach leaders are more inclined to measure their work more in terms of attendance. So the use of goals is proving to be of great value in the bus ministry.
Where to Start a Route
As has been mentioned earlier, it seems that routes should be started first at the door steps of the church building. Parents seem more willing to let their children ride if they live near the church. Also, canvassers seem to be more responsive to work nearer the church.
Routes should be continually added spreading out from the church into areas of greatest need. It should not be assumed that a neighborhood or community is reached because other churches are already there. Many churches make no effort to reach out for people. Some do little more than provide a preaching service along with Sunday school for those who happen to come. The bus ministry will challenge other churches to consider seriously the matter of outreach. It certainly is to be understood that churches cannot honor Christ by pulling boys and girls or adults away from one church to another. Let’s rejoice in the victories of others who honor Christ and make every effort to encourage the loyalty of members to their own church.
Our bus ministry and increased attendance at Travis Avenue has been a source of inspiration to most all of the churches in Fort Worth. Many have expressed their feeling that since Travis’ attendance has increased, their own churches have had an upsurge in enthusiasm and outreach, resulting in higher attendance.
As was mentioned previously, areas which offer the greatest potential for starting bus routes are the heavily populated areas, such as trailer courts, apartments, housing projects, isolated areas, military bases, downtown hotels, and moderate to low income single family houses. In many places such as these the population is transient and most churches are unable to adequately cope with the actual needs presented. Since the bus crews visit every Saturday, newcomers can be discovered almost immediately. Very often parents have moved so many times that they seemingly do not intend to settle down and little effort is made to find a church home.
One family of nine children began riding one of our buses at Vacation Bible School time in June, 1970. Seven months later they had lived in four homes and the children had ridden on four different buses. At the time this is written the family has moved again and cannot be located. Almost every week bus workers share with each other the names of riders who are moving from one route to another.
After fifteen months’ experience it seems apparent that the greatest response to the buses comes from areas where (1) transportation is actually needed, (2) income is lower, and (3) the community is transient. One reason for this, no doubt, is the reluctance or inability of many churches to put forth the effort necessary to reach such homes. Most churches apparently have felt that their efforts and resources are better spent on more stable family situations.
The record system used by our church has been developed as we have gone along. We have sought to keep them as simple as possible, and at the same time to maintain the essential information needed to carry out and to evaluate our work.
A bus captain is at liberty to use whatever kind of record he needs. He normally must have records which can be formed into the order of his route. Some captains prefer a family card such as the sample.
These cards are also placed in route order, are put in ring binders, and serve as a record of attendance.
With the help of the bus captains the bus secretary maintains a duplicate bus record book of each route using the above record card. This book is for office use and the attendance is checked on Sunday morning either by the bus captain or by the bus secretary. This book is kept in route order so that in cases of emergency it can be used to run the route. At the Saturday morning meeting, time is provided to update these records. The bus captain is also asked to turn in a report of his route each Sunday. The form used for this purpose is indicated in the sample. This report is turned in to the bus secretary who copies the information onto a summary report sheet. The information reported by the captain shows the results of the work accomplished by his crew. All information shown on the summary sheet is reproduced on the mid-week Sunday school promotion sheet along with the goals set by each crew.
As each rider is picked up, his name and address is written down. The advantage of this record is that new riders are included, along with the regular riders. Also on the return trip the list serves as a route sheet. This form is especially helpful to new captains or on new routes where names and addresses are unfamiliar to the worker.
It should be understood that bus records are completely separate from the Sunday school record system. A rider, of course, must be present in his Sunday school department if he is counted in Sunday school attendance. Sunday school workers do, however, refer to the bus records to get additional information for use in their work with the pupil.
Attitude of Church Members
Very often we are asked, “What do your members think about the bus ministry?” We are quick to answer that our people are thrilled by the opportunity offered through bus outreach. In trying to understand why Travis members have responded so favorably toward the buses we have come to these conclusions. First, we began using the buses one year for Vacation Bible School. Sunday school members canvassed four hundred blocks inviting people to attend. So many children requested transportation that we decided to run two buses even though we had not budgeted for them. This was discussed with our Sunday school directors on the Wednesday night before the school was to begin. One director said he would give $100.00 toward the additional expense, and one by one, others offered to pay for one day each until one bus was underwritten.
This spirit has characterized our workers and members from the beginning of the bus ministry. Perhaps one reason for it was the fact that approximately four to six hundred of our people were involved in pre-enrolling the boys and girls both for Vacation Bible School and for the bus ministry. This was not something that a few bus captains did. It was a church-wide effort. As our members had a part in locating persons needing transportation they were also made aware of the need first hand. Christian people will respond to a need when it is understood.
Another factor pleasing to our members has been the evangelistic results of this work. On the day the first route was started one beautiful thirteen-year-old girl came making her profession of faith. During Vacation Bible School in 1970, seventy-six made professions of faith, the majority of these having ridden on the buses. During the first seven months of this current year 290 have been baptized. Again, the majority of these have been reached as a result of the bus ministry. It has been an exciting and thrilling experience for all Travis members.
A third reason for the acceptance of this ministry is the use of city buses. From the beginning we have been concerned about the image of this work. These buses are attractive, air conditioned, and have qualified, uniformed drivers. Our people know that insurance, maintenance, and depreciation are included in the price of the rental fees and they do not worry about the safety of the riders. All of this apparently has a bearing upon the acceptance of the bus outreach.
Article “Bus Ministry” excerpted from “You Can Reach People Now”. Written by James E. Coggin and Bernard M. Spooner.